OKLAHOMA CITY - The U.S. Census Bureau reports that men represent 75 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math  (STEM) fields, but the Women of AT&T are hoping the next generation can change that.

The group hosted its 2nd Annual Girls in Future Technology event Saturday for 5th to 9th grade students. Many of girls said they were surprised at how much they could do with a little encouragement and hands-on training.

“I actually didn’t believe this was going to be fun and I thought I was going to be the only one here,” 7th grader Serenity Barnescarl said. 

But the event was actually at full capacity with 80 participants.

“In school the math and science sometimes are maybe too boring to them, so this way they got their hands on some things,” said Debbie Watson, president of the local Women of AT&T chapter.

In addition to hearing from mentors like Oklahoma's only female splicing technician, who explained fiber optics, the girls got to explore virtual reality, engineer paper helicopters that can fly and write code to create apps.

“I like the coding,” 7th grader Eliza Sutton said. “I feel like I can rule everything, like I’m the king of some fortress that is the Internet.”

“When I first saw it, I was like, ‘ooh, that’s like typing just confusing stuff,’ but when they broke it down and showed me how to do it I was like, ‘oh, this is pretty simple. I like this,’” 9th grader Markese Young said.

Not everyone was convinced that STEM is the career path for them, but some do plan to use these newfound skills to change the world. “I really want to build new robots and make them process things to help other people,” said 7th grader Briana Ware.

They also aim to defy the stereotype that STEM is for men.

“At least allow us to be on the computer and do something with it instead of, ‘oh, you’re supposed to do this, you’re supposed to do that,’ because we can do more than that,” Sutton said.

The Women of AT&T are already brainstorming new ideas for next year, and plan to expand the GIFT event so more girls can see STEM in action.